Hospital “jet lag”

I don’t feel like writing right now. I don’t feel like doing much of anything but sleeping.

No one prepared me for how weird it would be to transition back into everyday life after 72 hours plus in the hospital.

It’s a lot like jet lag for similar reasons— your sleep schedule is screwed up and your routine in general is topsy turvy.

And I had neither major illness nor invasive procedures.

I got home on Thursday a little after 11 a.m. The cats were aloof but Nala was glad to see me.

I took one of the longest showers I’ve ever taken in my life. And I put on a pretty dress, just because I could.

And when I got out of the shower I discovered a text that alerted me to a cake on my porch.

The best baker in the neighborhood made me this coffee cake

I immediately texted my neighbor in the other half of my house and asked if she wanted to have coffee and I would bring cake.

Knowing I haven’t had decent coffee since the previous weekend, she started a pot immediately.

I left from there to go meet my daughter at the high school and help her carry her marching baritone home.

This is where I have to give my daughter all the props. Monday was her first day of high school band camp. If you don’t already know this about the teenager, she is in her fourth year of playing low brass in marching band.

So when I wandered off to the ER at 6-ish a.m. Monday morning, and was texting her “I’m not coming home.” Well, first she thought I was dying and then she suddenly became responsible for her own meals, her own laundry, and the care of 3 parakeets, 1 cockatoo who won’t go to sleep without someone in the room, our four cats and five foster kittens.

And we had a tropical storm.

And she handled it all.

Our neighbors offered an amazing support network, as did my friends, especially Gayle who brought me t-shirts so I didn’t have to wear a hospital gown.

I took several walks that first day home, including one for my medicine at CVS. I was ecstatic to see I only had a few days of Augmentin to take.

And the hand has improved every day.

Wound: about 10 a.m., August 8

My dad and stepmom came down to visit and take us to dinner at Three Mugs Pub. That almost made me cry because on Wednesday, after the doctor told me he couldn’t discharge me yet, all I could think of was a Shruty’s burger at Three Mugs Pub.

One of the best burgers around

When Three Mugs Pub was still Shruty’s, my husband and I were the first people to order the Shruty’s burger when they debuted it. It’s a really good burger topped with pepper jack cheese, shrings (tempura battered deep fried banana pepper rings) and Texas petal sauce.

In my opinion, this burger is one of the best in the Lehigh Valley, on par with the much pricier peanut butter bacon burger at Two Rivers Brewing, another favorite of mine.

And I had a Guinness to celebrate my arrival home.

They had a new appetizer on the menu— a hot buffalo chicken dip. We tried that too.

The teenager declared it her new favorite chicken dip, better than her father’s. I respectfully disagree. Her father’s is extremely good. I prefer it.

After that meal I slept 10 hours.

Now, on Friday, yesterday, everyone kept contacting me or stopping me to ask how I was doing and then Darnell stopped by to inform me of all the things that had happened while I was gone.

And everyone wanted a piece of the coffee cake Janie made me.

I shared.

And then my neighbor Jan let me watch a movie at her house, cuddling with her dog, and she even gave the teenager and I a bag of brownie M&M’s. The teenager thought they “just tasted like M&M’s” whereas I thought if you piled enough of them in your mouth at once it was like having a mouthful of brownie batter.

Not that I’ve ever eaten a bowl of brownie batter.

Or an entire pint of ice cream with brownie bits.

And then I slept 10 hours again.

I rolled out of bed a little after 8, expecting to have the last slice of Janie’s decadent coffee cake, after all, I need the food to take my antibiotics.

But then my mom told me she was bringing sticky buns.

So I made my morning coffee and as the espresso machine started steaming, I got on the scale.

I’ve gained two pounds since I got home from the hospital.

Saturday breakfast from Mimi

Lunch was a business mixer with the Easton chapter of the Lady Boss Women’s Entrepreneurial Club at Sogo Asian Fusion in the downtown.

A random young black women yelled at us from her car, “You guys look so pretty.” So I asked the teenager to take some selfies before our arrival. The teenager had just given me a haircut. I thought my hair looked untamed because of my hospital stay. I was wrong.

That random compliment from a stranger meant a lot to me as I still feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.

The teenager and I had the Out of Control roll, Fire Mountain (with scallops! and it really was a mountain, and it was so amazing) and a Philadelphia roll. The teenager squealed with delight and the staff at Sogo gave me the rubber-banded chopsticks because I was using a fork.

I guess the teenager will have to teach me to use chopsticks.

The remainder of my afternoon was spent cleaning, walking with my neighbor, and trying to earn the trust of our foster kittens.

YouTube playlist of our foster kittens

And now, I’m feeling a little nauseous and I wonder if it’s because of all these penicillin-family antibiotics in my system and the fact that I had so much more water in my system in the hospital. Every time I had an adverse reaction to the antibiotics in the hospital, they increased my IV fluids. So I’m trying to drink more here at home.

And a few minutes ago, my mom texted. She got bit by a friend’s cat today.

Impatient inpatient insights

I left my home at 6:15ish a.m. on Monday. I was in the ER within walking distance of my home by around 6:30, blood drawn around 7 a.m. and admitted shortly thereafter. I was transferred to another hospital, arriving at 3 pm, and I haven’t left my 9th floor room every since.

It is 9:30 am on Thursday.

I had a cat bite. One tooth. Punctured my finger. 3 pound kitten.

The almost instantaneous cellulitis was scary.

The fact that it got infected is not unexpected—most people don’t realize that 50% of cat bites get infected versus 5 to 10% of dog bites.

This whole adventure taught me a lot about animals, emergency medicine and hospitals.

My favorite nurse Michelle just announced I am being discharged as soon as she can fill out the paperwork. They cultured my blood— that was those bottles I posted the other day—and nothing grew!

So now that these have come back clean, I can head home. My neighbor, Jan, little dog Sobaka’s mom, is on her way.

I have set up my follow up appointment with my primary care physician, who will be very glad to see my blood pressure has reached normal levels.

I can’t even remember what I wanted to write in this because I’m so excited to go home.

  • I drink a lot of water and also urinate a lot. If the average person urinates 2000 ml a day, I probably hit almost 3000 ml.
  • I heard a “rapid response team” code 3 times while in the hospital, once each night around 8 pm. Last night, it was in a room a few doors from mine. Seeing the red cart fly by and people streaming from every direction, including the corridor I could see from my window. It was sobering.
  • I always feel like I’ve ordered half the hospital menu and when the food comes, I’m always shocked at how little food is on the tray.
  • My blood pressure was consistently about 117/75.
  • Being in the hospital for 3.5 days allowed me to follow the routines and “get to know” the staff and the other patients. In this time of Coronavirus, I couldn’t leave my room without mask and what not and really where would I go?
  • I saw the nurses deal with several difficult situations.
  • I watched the patients walking the corridors for exercise, in their gowns and with their IV poles.
  • I loved watching shift change, and when the residents and interns gathered for rounds.

This didn’t work out like I expected

I spoke with the teenager early this morning and asked for some pet updates throughout the day and this is what I can tell you:

Zeus and Artemis

Zeus and Artemis are allowing the teenager closer. Hermes doesn’t do more than a token flee when the teenager administers his meds.

Misty

Misty has taken to sleeping in my purse, which is balanced on a stool.

Good news: Ortho, the department supervising my wound care, has released me to go home.

The teenager brought me a cute top for discharge.

Bad news: My attending physician will not release me until I have 72 hours of normal blood draws just to ensure that there is no infection lingering in my system.

When I got to the ER on Monday morning, my blood work drawn at 7 am was normal, my blood work drawn here 24 hours later was also normal. So, and the attending physician specifically said this— If they draw my blood tomorrow at 7 am and it is also normal, I can go home.

This explains why I unexpectedly had another IV bag of antibiotics. Last night I slept well enough to dream and my brain transformed the chime from the IV pump in the room neighboring mine to Diana Ross’ “I’m coming out.” I dreamt I was dancing in a disco.

The noise: Explanation of the noise in my dream on YouTube

And if you don’t know the song: Diana Ross “I’m coming out” on YouTube

Upon hearing the news that my discharge would be delayed, I’ll be honest… I cried. Not in front of the doctor or my favorite nurse but I did cry.

Then I called “the meal hotline” and told them I was stress eating dinner tonight. I ordered a garden salad, cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing, broccoli, tator tots and a fruit cup.

Speaking of food, I tried the pancakes for breakfast with turkey sausage (that had a bite) and the chicken salad on rye for lunch. I promised the teenager I would try the sugar cookies.

Good news: The pancakes tasted as good as a diner. I was craving honeydew melon and it was so delicious. And the chicken salad also hit the spot.

Bad news: The breakfast was too small for me— if I do that again I am going to have to get scrambled eggs as that was not enough food for me and I was physically shaking by lunch.

Nala

Now that my meals are situated, I FaceTimed my cockatoo. That always cheers me up. I don’t have any clean clothes, except for a pair of jeans, so I asked Gayle to bring me a t-shirt and some dental floss.

She said yes and offered to stop and get me Dunkin so I placed an order. First I got her an iced tea and then I ordered munchkins. I checked out and realized I forgot my order. So I placed a second order.

Apparently that Dunkin’ closes at 2 and they were no longer accepting mobile orders— even though I had placed one one minute earlier.

And they were out of munchkins. So we got doughnuts in the munchkin flavors.

When Gayle left, it felt so good to wash, floss and put on the closest thing I had to an outfit.

Dawn: The Big Reveal

For those who haven’t read the whole saga— I am in St. Luke’s Hospital Bethlehem/Fountain Hill because a 3-pound black kitten I am fostering managing to bite me while the teenager and I were giving her eye meds.

One of her teeth punctured my left index finger above the middle knuckle and I developed cellulitis that was spreading into my hand.

Thanks to a maceration dressing (again read the last few blog posts for details) and IV antibiotics every four hours, it seems to be calming.

Last night was not easy. Something was going on— I don’t know if it was the tropical storm or something happening with the other patients (this is the cancer floor)—and they didn’t even do basic checks on me for almost six hours.

The entire staff kept running to the other end of the floor and when the PCA did come down to this end, she apologized and ran back out again.

I was on IV meds for that time and when they came in it was business only. No chit chat.

And my needs right now are far from life threatening.

But around 7, I started to get really hot. I took my sweatshirt off and saw what I thought was the beginning of a rash.

And then I started to freak. Because I thought about the course of the day. My eyes were dry, burning and itchy most of the day. My skin had been itchy on probably 65% of my body.

I was taking an IV antibiotic from the penicillin family every 4 hours and I know I have issues with penicillin.

Was I having a reaction?

The nurse increased my fluids just in case. I have similar symptoms today.

As if that scare wasn’t enough, my dressing fell of my finger. But the nurse rewrapped it.

So I had my last bag of antibiotics at 4 am. They have no meds in the system for me today. My only meal ordered was breakfast.

It all relies on what the specialist says.

The residents turned up at 6 am. It was time for the big reveal.

The residents, “the babies” as my favorite nurse calls them, took photos to share with the doctor supervising my care. I haven’t met him.

It looks like I will be going home today.

The nurses are all amazed at how quickly “that contraption” worked. The maceration dressing works on the same concept as a hyperbaric chamber, just a lot more low tech.

Certainly much less invasive than surgery.

Random Hospital Tidbits during a tropical storm

I think I have a sense of humor

My daughter brought extra dry erase markers so we could have fun with the nurses and my care team. Yes, as the a patient with cellulitis from a kitten bite I drew paw prints all over my board.

Today was my second day in the hospital at St. Luke’s Bethlehem/Fountain Hill and also the day that Tropical Storm Isaias wreaked havoc in the Lehigh Valley.

This is the only unplanned hospital stay I have ever had and will also be the longest. My other other experience in the hospital was giving birth to my daughter.

There are only two parts of this experience that I have disliked: IVs, though I have learned to ignore them, and collecting my urine so everyone can monitor my fluids.

Everyone on staff has been kind, and most downright enjoyable and intelligent. But Nurse Michelle has been my favorite.

Michelle finally arranged all my IV tubes into a double Dutch arrangement so they don’t have to keep swapping them out on my arm. She labeled everything meticulously. Attention to detail is the perfect trait for a nurse.

The hospital has lovely old architecture and picturesque views.

I started betadine soaks today. I’m tickled that such basic medicine still works well. I also feel like I’m hanging out with Marge from the Palmolive commercials.

“You’re soaking in it.”

Old Palmolive Commercial on You Tube

The teenager stopped by so that was fun— we took silly pictures. Speaking of the teenager and silly photos, I FaceTimed my cockatoo last night.

And in the category of things that make me happy—

Checking in to the 9th floor

The charge nurse introduced herself and asked me if I had Covid or any signs of Covid. I said no. She was curious why I had been swabbed and tested for Covid. I told her that they had told me that it was required before my transfer.

She discusses this with the doctor.

Then I discovered I had been admitted to the cancer floor and anyone with Covid or Covid exposure can’t be on the floor. The patients here are all very immunocompromised.

I read the hospital menu as I want for my admissions tests. It’s torture as it is after 3 pm and I’ve had about 350 calories of food and 6 grams of protein all day. And then I see Monday lunch features maple glazed Brussel sprouts.

If you follow my blog, you may now Brussel sprouts are my favorite and I narrowly missed them. I was heartbroken.

** side note** Every staff person I have met at both of these facilities (I started at St. Luke’s Easton Campus) has been amazing.

The nurse finished most of my paperwork when a very handsome doctor strolls in, with sandy light brown hair and big eyes, swoops in to check my finger. He’s the specialist, the regular doctor and the nurse have all seen the cellulitis from the puncture/bite caused by a 3-pound kitten.

He tells me his plan for treatment—a maceration dressing. Now at first, I got this word mixed up with “eviscerate” and thought maybe they planned to make a brace of nails to poke holes in my flesh and let whatever was beneath the flesh ooze out.

The reality is far less gruesome but probably just as uncomfortable.

He carefully explained, but I’m going to summarize and share pictures. They put wet gauze around my hand, wrap it in a splint, wrap it in some soft stuff, tape it like a candy cane, put a plastic bag over it, wrap it in a heated blanket, put it in a big sling and hang it over my head.

“Ah,” I said. “The height of 2020 technology here.”

“It works,” he said.

He returned with a resident and an intern and they set to work. I love being in a teaching hospital because I learn so much.

I finally ordered some food and I meant to ask the kitchen staff if they had any Brussel sprouts left over from lunch but I forgot. I went with the beef brisket. And a sweet potato. Applesauce. Lemon meringue pie. Salad.

When it arrived, my tray only had spoons as utensils.

I have my left arm suspended from an IV pole. My right arm has an IV in the elbow. And I have to eat salad and cut meat with a spoon.

So the nurse came in for one of those routine things that nurses do, and I asked her, “Is it customary to not receive forks?”

She looked at my tray and started to laugh.

I must have looked a good tad baffled.

“It’s usually hard to get a spoon around here,” she said.

“They were saving them for me,” I replied.

Note the utensils

She found me some plastic utensils and I was able to dine more delicately. Later at shift change, the nurse and I managed to convince the night nurse that I was under doctor’s orders not to have a fork.

I should know not to joke about food as I had an NPO go into effect at midnight just in case I needed surgery in the morning.

I slept from about 1 to 4 a.m., and the resident undressed my contraption shortly after 6. The swelling had reduced, the redness gone, only one knuckle still swollen. The resident squeezed and poked and prodded but no discharge or puss oozed out.

This means no surgery!

The morning after

We will be doing another 12 hours of fluids, electrolytes and unasyn. And betadine soaks. I have noticed the knuckle is no longer swollen!

The unfortunate cat bite

So yesterday in our first attempt to medicate Hades’ eyes, she bit me.

As I wrote yesterday, I went to the urgent care and was prescribed antibiotics. But this morning the bite and finger was much worse.

Ironically we were able to give both kittens their meds today without a hitch. And Hades even stayed out and didn’t hide after we smeared antibiotic ointment in her eyes.

The black cat at the teenager’s witchy shelf

After we got them treated, I went downstairs, had a little pastry and took my bactrim.

Then I headed to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Easton Campus. I walked over. It’s a gorgeous morning.

Now I left home shortly after 6. I didn’t open the curtains or feed the birds because I figured I could do that when I get home.

The ER has other plans. I need to see a hand surgeon. He will decide whether he needs to open the hand and clean it. Personally I believe he does.

So I have had an X-ray, IV antibiotics and fluids, and a variety of blood work that has also returned normal.

I am sitting and waiting for a room to open at the main hospital in Bethlehem as this one doesn’t have an OR let alone a hand surgeon.

I thought they could just poke a hole in it and be done.

How wrong I was.

Once the room opens, I will ride the ambulance to the other facility.

Have I mentioned I have a high deductible medical plan?